Touring into France 2014

Since a young age I’ve had an affinity with France.  I spent many an hour leaning the language in school.  At 16 I went and spent my summer on an archaeological dig there, my fondest memories were dark chocolate baguettes!

Given my love to explore, I am surprised it took me so long to conclude to pack my bike up and go off cycling.  But in 2013 that’s what I did, it was a bit of a bust.  I went in October and it was COLD and I damaged my knees.  So after the 2014 racing season there was only one thing I’d been thinking off all year, packing my bike up and heading off again to see the world.

So in August 2014 I did just that, for the second time I stuffed my panniers with as little as I could and set off at breakneck speed! Touring for me is about seeing as much as I can.  I am saving the leisurely pace for when I’m old and decrepit, for now it’s big ring riding.  I’ve been known to join in on a few chaingangs, panniers and all, raising a few eyebrows until I do my turn and nods are exchanged.  I’ve hit 70mph on my loaded tourer.

This whole trip was a blast of memories from start to finish.

It was on this trip I realised I needed to race Transcontinental.  My love for just being out there, in the world, without a care about anything.  Sleeping rough, not washing, taking each day as it comes.  Seeing places I’ve never see, riding myself across countries.  Taking roads that you’d never take unless you were on a bicycle.  It’s magical travelling by bicycle.

There were some real highlights though, the Ardennes were great.

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But the first really wow was coming through the Swiss Jura.  Switzerland is a place I fell in love with immediately, as it’s painted in films, the cows have bells and the mountains are beautiful.  I basically took the cycle-route 7 all the way, a route for anyones bucket list, see my route here

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When I made the trip I kept a photo diary, it was a nice way of sharing photos, but also due to being pretty tired a quick way of writing daily thoughts of the ups and downs I went through.

 

 

Day 1.  London to Dover.

Day 1.  London to Dover.  One puncture. The kent AONB is up and down, some dirty gradients to contend with! Glad I packed light.Tonight I sleep in a field with this as my dinner view.  I will sleep under the stars in my bivi bag. Peaceful.

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Day 2 Calais to Marchiennes

Once again greeted with a horrid headwind in the north flatlands.  Bit grim at times but the sun was out so it makes it easier.  Tucking into my staple pasta in a packet et pure virgin Olive oil and parmigiano. Music reminds me of home and Isabelle!

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Day 3 – Wallers – Le Chesne.  Headwinds. Rural. Beautiful.

Decent day today.  Lots of riding but legs feeling good. Only going to get stronger.  Chco milk so welcome after 8 hours. Arenberg was breathtaking.  Disc brakes = scary fast speed downhill.  So much stopping power.

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Day 5. First col. Le Col du Ballon d’Alsace.

Fun day. Shorter than others but a small col in there. Leg sensations were good, only getting stronger. Achilles is sore though! Shit.  So many touring motorbikes, became envious of the ease of them! Cross into Swiss tomorrow to get to the Alps. Bring it

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Day 6. Into Switzerland. What an epic place.

Switzerland is like the picture postcards. The cows have bells.  It’s an insane place.  From the last to cols over Vedu mountains I could see the alps on the horizon. Breathtaking.

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Day 7. Annecy.

Came here last year with my dad for the tour.  Got a KOM on one of the local cols here.  This place rocks.  Easy day today, just 70odd miles enjoying the stunning views.  30deg and a swim in the lake!

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Day 8. Cormet de Roselend. 19k 6500ft

A lovely steady climb.  With beautiful views from across the lake at 15k.  Great climb. Nice descent into B-St-Maurice.

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Day 9 Col d’Iseran. From Bourg.

What an awesome climb. Up beyond Val D and into the ski runs. So insane.  Seriously long ride up from Bourg. Straight up for like 6500ft.  There is a fort on the hill off the other side, it looks amazing. Will have to visit with Isz. Legs feel GOOD!!

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Day 10. Trois col, une jour.  Telegraph. Galibier. Izoard.

Properly cool day. Galibier and izoard were epic.  Finally managed to get the tourer over 50mph coming off izoard.  Passed some motorbikes! It’s hard for me to breathe over 6500ft, just lose so much strength.  Descent off both was insane.  Epic day.

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Day 11. Col du Vars, then bed!

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Day 12. Cime de la Bonnette. What a climb. Also did Turini, bit shit.

Bonnette was a really cool climb, dusted off some roadies and ground up the final curves to the cime. Wicked views and a fast decent.  Turini the road surface was so bad, not fun.  Really good day. Had a pizza for dinner, epic!

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Day 13. Eze. Côte d’Azur is insane. Isz and I are moving here, for sure.

Nothing more need to be said, this place is insane.  Nice is cool but eze looks so good.  We are moving, 100%!!!!

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Day 14.  Gorges du Verdon. Epic!

Today was an amazing ride.  The route I took was insane.  From as soon as I left nice. And the gorge was immense.  What a day.  A must ride route for sure!! A must.

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Day 15.  A ride to Mecca.

It seems mont ventoux is Mecca. I’ve seen more cyclist in the hour to Bedoin then I have all trip, crazy! Tomorrow I go up! The countryside around here is different, but beautiful.

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Day 16 – Col du Mont Ventoux, rightly Mecca.

I understand now why this place is Mecca. Bedoin is a nice little town. The roads around are lovely. Mont Ventoux was unreal. Best climb/descent yet. Ripped the descent and hit 53mph (with panniers and all).  On a proper rush now.

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Day 17 – Rest day. Shin splints are bad.

So I have to rest, shin splints are pretty bad.  So a few days off and then asses.  And go from here.  Sucks.  But hey, I still grabbed a chainy on the way back from supermarket this morning.  I can still shred on steel, with a backpack of pain au chocs.

Day 18.  Feet up Friday

So my shin splints are still pretty bad, but improving.  I made the tough, for me, decision to rest more. I love to destroy myself, so sitting around isn’t my idea of fun.  But hey, I love to read too.  And in a day or so, Mont Ventoux again!!

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Day 19. Slow Saturday.

No news is not good news.  Still waiting for shin splints to feel better.  Much ibuprofen and rest later, they’re getting there.  Slow times.  Yawn.

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Day 20. Back on the bike and back up Ventoux.

Yeah my shin is pretty much fucked.  But it’s had it’s fair 3 days to heal.  So tomorrow back on the road.  If it doesn’t want to get better then it’s going to love the pain ill give it.  Stupid body.

Day 21. Back on the road, just.

So my body complied and I’m back on the move. Thank fuck. I was becoming insane in the same place, moving is good. Sadly I’ve ridden myself into the ground. Once again my mind is far stronger then my body. So I shall have to nurse my sore self to Toulouse. I mean 6hours today, that’s pretty nursing right!? Weak body, you shall be punished by strong mind.

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Day 22.  Mont Aigoual. Amazing.
So embarrassingly I’m not sure what the region I’m passing through is technical called. But dam is it beautiful. The D907 was one hell of a road. And the D19 over to Mont A. was awesome. Then the gorges. WOW.
 
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Day 23. A killer sunset.
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Day 24.  Toulouse.
I’m here. After 24 days of epic journey I make it to Toulouse. It’s odd. Tomorrow I won’t have to wake up and ride. Im bummed. I love to ride. This has been one hell of a journey!!
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Day 25. To lose myself in Toulouse.
Spend the day losing myself in the city. What a cool place. Drank so much good coffee and ate loads of nice food. Perfect. Sun was out too, hot!
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Day 26. Champs-Élysées. The end.
This has become a tradition now. Well 2nd year running. Love a good dice with death, makes you feel alive!
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Some outtakes that didn’t make the diary, with only 1 photo per day lots of good ones were missed.

 

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